General — 24 June 2017 — by Adele Ramos
Swiss want “automatic exchange of financial account information” with Belize and 40 other states

BELIZE CITY, Wed. June 21, 2017–Following a meeting last Friday, June 16, the Swiss Federal Council—described as a 7-member executive council which constitutes the federal government of the Swiss Confederation and serves as the collective executive head of government and state of Switzerland—announced that it is seeking to establish agreements for the automatic exchange of financial account information (AEOI) with Belize and 40 other states and territories.

Some of the other countries and territories listed are Andorra, Antigua and Barbuda, Argentina, Aruba, Barbados, Bermuda, Brazil, Cayman, Chile, China, Costa Rica, Curaçao, Israel, Columbia, Malaysia, Mauritius, Mexico, Montserrat, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Saudi Arabia, Seychelles, Turks and Caicos Islands, and Uruguay.

Back in 2016, Belize adopted via legislation a tax information exchange agreement with Switzerland, with which it has had diplomatic ties since 1988.
Implementation of this new agreement is planned for 2018, and the first exchanges of data will be occurring in the autumn of 2019, the Council said.

Back in February 2015, we reported on revelations made by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ), that upwards of BZ$100 million had been channeled to an overseas bank in Switzerland, the HSBC Private Bank, but there were no details on the holders of those accounts.

Belize was ranked 5th among the 12 CARICOM countries listed, when ranked according to the total sum of money stored in Switzerland, and it ranks 3rd among its Central American counterparts.

It is not known to what extent Swiss investors or nationals may have money held in Belize, particularly in offshore accounts here.

According to the Swiss Federal Council, once the agreement with the 41 countries and territories takes effect, the exchange of information will be based on the international standard for the exchange of information developed by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).

“Switzerland is boosting its international position by extending its AEOI network to most of the G20 and OECD states, as well as other important financial centres around the world,” said the statement.

“It is important for the Federal Council that a level playing field be created among states and that all major financial centres, in particular, be included,” it added.

Already this year, Switzerland introduced the AEOI with 38 states and territories, including all EU member states, and they will begin to exchange data in 2018, the Council said.

When Amandala contacted the Ministry of Foreign Affairs today about the announcement by the Swiss Federal Council, the person to whom we were referred indicated that he was unaware of the proposed agreement with Belize.

He explained, though, that any such agreement would have to go to Parliament before it is domesticated in Belize.

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